Using Two PCs at Once - A Virtual KVM
KVMs and Multiple Computers
In the old days before we had computers that spanned multiple monitors, we sometimes had multiple computers on our desks. We had dedicated switching hardware to do this called KVM (Keyboard/Video/Mouse) switches. These days, apart from PC setups, which are mostly done via cloning technology these days, there's not really a reason to have multiple computers on your desk.
At least, not until COVID-19 forced everyone to work from home and some of us found a need to switch between our home and work laptops with ease.
Not really wanting to purchase special hardware and extra cables, I looked for an alternative solution and found that Microsoft already had one. It's called Mouse without Borders. In this post, I just want to talk about getting it setup.
Installing Mouse without Borders
There's quite a few options around for Virtual KVMs but why would you pay for one when Microsoft provides one of the best for free?
Mouse without Borders is available from Microsoft Garage, it's a small (1.3 mb) download. In order for it to work, both machines need to be on the same network (which if they're on or near your desk, they will be).
It doesn't really do the V part of KVM but it does allow you to use a single keyboard and mouse to control multiple computers (and it has the added benefit of allowing you to copy and paste between machines).
Once you've downloaded the setup files on both computers, you'll need to go through the setup, accept the licence terms and let the install complete.
The configuration screens are driven by a welcome wizard which sometimes has trouble resizing for your display. I had problems on one of my Microsoft Surface devices, probably because it had third party graphics drivers. If you can't see the screen properly, just click skip. You can do manual setup.
Choose a source machine (the PC one you use most frequently). Set the source machine up first. If you're going through the wizard, you'll have to say No to the initial prompt of "Have you already installed Mouse without Borders on another computer". You'll get a security code and machine name. Make a note of these as you'll need them later.
Repeat the installation on the target machine and choose YES to the initial prompt. You'll be prompted to enter the machine name and code, once you do that and verify, the machines will connect. From there, it's just a matter of moving your monitors around until it works the way you want it to.
If you need to do manual configuration;
- Go into Machine Setup on the source computer
- Click on New Key to generate a new key
- Tick the box marked Show text
- Make a note of the text (or copy/paste it and email it to yourself as it's sometimes hard to get right). Then set up the other computer
- Move your monitors into the virtual position that best suits your setup.
- click Apply.
Now if you mouse over to the edge of your screen, the keyboard and mouse will automatically transfer to the next computer.